5 Books That Prove Adults Should Read Young Adult Books

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Young Adult Fiction is the one section of your bookstore where you can see LGBTQ romances, transgender main characters, BIPOC lead characters and cast.

These stories challenge the white-centric concept of being “literary.” One of the possible reasons for this is because YA markets itself towards teenagers, which means that authors don’t need to impress anyone with flowery language or use tropes that would glorify them into canonical status. The biggest hope an author has is that their book gets in the hands of someone who has not yet seen themselves between the pages.

Young adult contemporary fiction is about identity, managing growing pains and learning hard lessons about life with some laughs along the way. The reader follows a pathway that allows them to understand their adolescence through these books, regardless if they are a teenager or adult.
I came out, as queer, later in life when I was 24 and desperate for books like these to replenish narratives missing from my Christian adolescence. I barely read YA fiction before I began to work at a local bookstore, Mosaic Books, and now, I read at least one YA book a month.

My recommendations feature the voices of a queer Puerto Rican girl spending a topsy turvy summer in Portland, a teenager discovering their gender identity, and a transgender boy keeping secrets to get his happy ending and much more. There are UFO’s, spirituality, astrology, letters written to prison, wild New York pride parties and touching young love.

Juliet Takes A Breath

Juliet is obsessed with a pussy power white feminist author from Portland and asks to be her intern for the summer. After coming out to her family, she jumps on a plane and discovers the nuances of intersectional feminism by exploring her identity as a queer Puerto Rican woman. This read is one of the most real Young Adult books about being a teenager with lots of young fresh love to give, and powerfully takes on racism that is embedded at the center of the gay community.

Felix Ever After

A ragtag bunch of queer teenagers in New York City who navigate gender identity, the quest for first love, all the while being sleep deprived and angsty. These characters felt like actual teenagers who cussed, were flawed, and had no idea what was going on. An important intersectional analysis of being a queer teen who has the freedom to reevaluate gender expression. A refreshing read, as most young adult gay romances focus on white gay boys. The tides are turning, and it is about time! Callender brought real issues to light but also kept it a bouncy romp. This book is the modern-day Simon vs. the Homosapiens that we all need.

Stay Gold

Pony is finishing off high school at a new school where nobody knows he is transgender, and he likes it that way. Pony’s story is powerful and is a testament, feel-good novel to an ideal world that I hope we can live in very soon. A story and exploration of how we can all withhold information and essential parts of ourselves to fit in and experience an uncomplicated existence. The characters were believable, relatable and fun to follow. Also, my girlfriend was proud of me for reading something that didn’t leave me crying or having an existential crisis for once.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

Audre, after being out in Trinidad, is forced to go live with her Dad in American, where she forms a deep relationship with Mabel. This book was an examination of diaspora, finding meaning through ancestry and spirituality, deep bonds, sweet, sweet love of queer women and what it means to be black in America. This book was a magical risk in the narrative style, but it worked so well.

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

Sia’s mother was deported three years ago and went missing. In Sia’s mind, she has made peace with the fact that she is gone from this world forever. Yet, one night, a mysterious spaceship crashes in the desert one night, which changes everything. Gilliland is a poet through and through! Sia’s voice is infused with spirituality, lyricism and sassiness. She crafts a mythical, spiritual, science fiction and altogether genre-bending story. A commentary on the terrible ICE atrocity and the nuanced nature of what is right and wrong.

No one should ever underestimate a YA book for the genre it belongs to because it is some of the most insightful and hopeful writing out there.

If you are looking for exhaustive lists of YA book recommendations visit this website to get started.

I hope that all of these books end up on your to be read list. Follow me on Instagram @amankelly and tag me in your review of the book. Find me on Storygraph under arkells. Happy reading!!

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